Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate | AspenTimes.com

Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

So the other day I had a meeting up in Aspen with my buddies at FuseMedia, Chris and Heather Macdonald, whom I so totally adore. (They make videos and stuff. Learn more at http://www.fusemedia.tv.)

I’m always excited to have an excuse to drive up to A-Town now that I’m living in the little red canyon, but lately, that’s started to change.

I am slowly but surely falling in love with the Fryingpan as I discover more of its hidden treasures. It’s not that the goods are hard to find – it’s just that they’re not marked with trail signs and maps or written about in guidebooks or blogs. And therein lies the beauty. It’s a place where you don’t have to go far to find solitude, quiet and the kind of scenery that makes you want to become a professional photographer.

So I have this meeting in Aspen, and I’m thinking I’ll turn around and come straight home after. I figure I’ll skip shopping the offseason sale racks and take the dog for a walk on the new trail I’ve discovered that I’ve decided to name Members Only Red Table Trail because I don’t think anyone knows about it except the people who live around here.

I found out about the trail from my neighbor Alex, who just happens to be a freelance photographer who works out of the FuseMedia offices (very talented, specializing in architecture – check him out at alexirvin.com). I didn’t know that until he came up to me and said, “Hey, are you Alison? I’m Alex, your neighbor!”

It turns out we have all these amazing, like-minded, super-cool neighbors in crazy-random spots that we chose somewhat blindly and that our lives are all connected in some way (our favorite Meridian jewelers, our favorite Diamond Sessions ski instructor and our favorite Aspen Times columnist other than yours truly). It just feels like we have landed exactly where we are meant to be.

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After my serendipitous meeting at Fuse, I agree to meet my friend Pila for lunch at Peach’s. I had planned to go straight home, but alas: If there is an excuse to go out to eat, I will do it under almost any circumstance, and Ladies Lunch is my all-time favorite. Twist my arm.

Pila is an ageless, pint-size woman with a cartoonish voice, beautiful Asian features and long, straight, black hair. We go way back to the days of Bernadette’s original circuit training crew at Jean-Robert’s Gym, back when it was this group of strong, beautiful mountain women who could bench press their own weight and still fit into a size 2 (God, I sort of do miss that). Pila left town for a while, and now she’s back, and she has just started her own spa, Heaven on Earth Aspen.

“I don’t have a client until 7 tonight. What am I going to do with the rest of my day?” she asks, looking very much the spa owner behind her dark, oversized shades.

I respond with a blank look and shrug because I never have any clients or a set schedule, and I can deal with having nothing to do just fine.

“Hey, do you want me to give you a facial?” she asks.

This is precisely why I love not having a set schedule. “Hell, yeah!” I say, practically jumping out of my chair. I have to resist the urge to hug and kiss her right there in front of everyone.

Pila gives me a 90-minute oxygen facial with massage and paraffin wax and good-smelling face stuff, and I get to lie beneath a cozy electric blanket in a dark room and be totally pampered. She gives me free samples and some hot tea and chocolate-covered almonds, and the whole time I’m just wondering what the hell I ever did to deserve it. When I wake up the next morning and see how amazing my skin looks, I take a photo of it and post it on Facebook. I mean, if you’re gonna use Facebook, you might as well just go with it and be a complete narcissist. I’m checking that thing every five seconds just to see how many likes and comments I get to see if everyone agrees about how good I look.

So I walk out of Heaven on Earth Aspen and go visit my friend Colleen, who works at a store nearby. Colleen is a slight girl with long, curly hair who seems to be an extension of her bubbly, effervescent energy. I know her store is going out of business, and find her in a pile of clothes and bags, packing inventory into boxes and cleaning the space out.

“Oh, just take what you want,” she says, gesturing to a pile of clothes that have not yet been put away. I have a field day, trying everything on that isn’t tied down. She doesn’t bat an eye when my pile gets kind of big. She just wraps it in tissue paper and puts it in a nice bag.

“Want to grab a drink?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m buying,” I say, even though I know my checking account just went into overdraft again.

So I’m super-relived when I ask the bartender for the bill and he says, “Colleen already paid with her batting eyelashes,” and walks away.

I retrieve my car out of two-hour parking five hours later and drive home with $500 worth of perfect skin and a bag filled with fancy clothes and a slight beer buzz and realize Aspen is never going to let me go.

I mean, where else in the world can you have such fabulous friends and beautiful things and someone who is willing to have a drink with you any day of the week and bartenders who don’t charge pretty girls?

Pila got it right. Aspen really is Heaven on Earth.